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TICKER: ‘God forbid bad thing’? Lufthansa, Air France reject FG offer to be national carrier

The Federal Government is in desperate search for investors among foreign airlines to partner with it to establish a new national carrier for the country; findings by our correspondent have shown.

This is after Lufthansa German Airlines and AirFrance reportedly turned down an approach by the government to be its partners in the proposed national carrier.

However, barely three months to the December 2012 deadline set by the Minister of Aviation, Ms Stella Oduah, for the take off of the new carrier, hopes of its emergence look dim, according to investigations by our correspondent.

The minister had last December said the Federal Government would establish a new national carrier this year, eight years after the liquidation of the Nigeria Airways.

Oduah had made the announcement during an open chat with her followers on the social networking medium, Twitter.

Responding to questions from our correspondent then, she said the Federal Government was working on a new model for the proposed carrier.

According to her, the funding and ownership for the new airline will not be like that of the defunct Nigeria Airways, which was wholly owned by the government.

Nigeria Airways was liquidated in May 2003 by the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

However, there have been calls for a new national carrier to boost the nation’s image internationally and to realise the dream of making Nigeria an air transport hub.

The minister said, “We are working on a national carrier that will be publicly owned with limited financial contribution by the government. Government will act as a regulator and provide an enabling environment for this objective to be realised.

“We recently reviewed the models of national carriers in other countries and we are working on the best solution for Nigeria. We are working to deliver the national carrier by next year (2012).”

However, top industry sources told our correspondent on Monday that the government had separately approached Lufthansa German Airlines and AirFrance for partnership over the proposed national airline.

The two separate discussions, it was learnt, did not yield any positive result because the airlines said they could only offer technical and management assistance.

According to sources close to the discussions, the airlines were not ready to take up stakes in the proposed national carrier, an arrangement the Federal government was not willing to embrace.

“The government has approached Lufthansa and AirFrance for partnerships, but they both declined. They said they could only offer some technical assistance and also help to manage the airline. But as per investing in the proposed national carrier, they were not ready,” one of the sources close to the situation said.

Investigations by our correspondent revealed that the airlines were concerned about the inconsistency in government policies in the aviation sector, noting that another minister might come and cancel the arrangement they might have had with the current minister if they should go ahead to take up stakes in the proposed national airline.

– The Punch

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